MINNEAPOLIS -- Before Tuesday's series opener against the Twins at Target Field, Phillies' hitters gathered with hitting coach Steve Henderson to discuss the upcoming pitching matchups.
The Phillies have these meetings before every series, but this one went differently. Phillies veterans Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz spoke to their teammates, imploring them to relax, trying to get them to take pressure off themselves as the losses piled up and the runs weren't coming. Coincidence or not, Twins' pitching staff or not, the Phillies hit the ball better this week, including during Thursday's 7-3 victory.
"Open mic, something like that," Howard said of the meeting.
The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak, and the 22 runs scored against the Twins were a positive for the struggling Phillies.
"We're young guys," shortstop Freddy Galvis said. "Everybody wants to stay in the big leagues. Nobody wants to go back. Sometimes you put too much pressure [on yourself]. Instead of that, you just have to have fun and play baseball and just let it happen."
Galvis went 2-for-3 with a triple, home run and career-high five RBIs. He also executed a safety squeeze in the second inning. Cesar Hernandez went 4-for-4 with three runs scored. He played only because Tommy Joseph got scratched because of an illness, forcing Andres Blanco from second to first.
Howard went 2-for-5 with a solo home run, and Blanco and Cody Asche also had two hits.
"Obviously Chooch and I have been through it all, so guys want to go out and do well," Howard said. "Sometimes you try to do a little too much. You just try to offer some different words of encouragement to guys and try to get them to settle down."
"Yeah, it helped a lot, especially when you get some advice from guys like Chooch, guys like Howie," Galvis said. "They say, 'Hey, don't worry. It's going to happen. We've been through hard times, too, and sooner or later it's going to turn around.' We try to get the confidence back, try to get your stroke back, and next time you see it, you hit the ball good."
Howard played the entire series as the designated hitter, going 3-for-14 at the plate with the home run and two RBIs. He is adjusting to a reserve role, trying to remain as upbeat as he can, trying to help the younger players get through their tough times.
"That's always been my demeanor, just try to be upbeat, keeping positive and all that stuff," he said. "I mean I understand the game. I understand what takes place in the game. I've been around the game for a long time. You have ups and downs. Right now when I get out there and play, try to do what I can and try to help these guys learn and become better ballplayers."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.